• $20 unlimited iPhone calling from AT&T 3G MicroCell?

    Image via SlashGear

    Late last night our friends at Apple Insider reported that AT&T customers who reside in poor service areas may soon have the option to pay $20 to obtain unlimited calling over 3G using their own Internet access.
    AT&T hasn't yet set a retail price on its forthcoming new 3G MicroCell appliance, which connects to your existing Internet to supply local 3G voice, SMS/MMS, and data coverage for nearby AT&T customers. However, a report by Engadget Mobile attributed to an anonymous tipster says that the company plans to offer an unlimited calling plan for users for $20 per month.
    The report comes on the heels of news on Friday from Zacks Investment Research revealing that the 3G Microcell is expected to launch in "the next week" with the full roll out taking place by year's end. AT&T's Microcell, which functionally performs as a tiny tower to boost 3G reception, is rumored to likely first appear in select markets including Atlanta, San Antonio, and Seattle.

    Bundled with AT&T-supplied Internet (if available in your area), the monthly fee drops to $10, and with AT&T Internet and landline service (if you also pay to have one of those old plug-in type phones), the monthly fee goes away entirely.
    For now, speculation about $20 extra per month doesn't seem too far out of line with what little industry standard already exists. Sprint, for example, markets Airave for $5 per month (or $10 with unlimited calling) while T-Mobile serves up unlimited calling through its [email protected] service for a monthly fee of $10.

    It all points to additional evidence that carriers are opting to rely on femtocells to increase consumer coverage and satisfaction rather than investing further in beefing up already overloaded networks.

    The 3G MicroCell does not create a VoIP alternative to AT&T's network; it simply tunnels 3G voice and data over the user's existing broadband Internet service to AT&T's servers, which process it like any other call handled by its existing 3G cell towers.
    But is $20 per month too much to pay for better coverage in AT&T's many dead zones?
    It's not clear if the monthly fee for unlimited wireless calling through the device will be mandatory in order to obtain the 3G MicroCell device. According to the photo of official looking marketing collateral included in the report, "3G phones connected to the MicroCell without AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling continue to use existing plan minutes."
    Although it's been slow going so far, a flurry of activity from AT&T is widely anticipated in the next few weeks to push the 3G MicroCell devices out to the masses. With the arrival of MMS and the iPhone's "voracious data demands," customers are growing restless and eager for a lifeline. For them, $20 per month may not be too terribly high of a price to alleviate the frustration born of shoddy coverage in numerous markets.
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